Some of Minnesota’s youngest residents will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as this week.
The state’s Mall of America vaccination site is already taking appointments for children as young as 6 months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for the age group 6 months to 5 years old.
“This is an important and exciting time for many families as our youngest Minnesotans can now receive important protection against COVID-19 through vaccination,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a statement. “We know that even young children can get very sick from this virus, and that’s why it’s important for all of us to continue doing everything we can to protect our loved ones and our communities from COVID-19.”
State health officials say that vaccine shipments specifically for this age group are expected to roll into Minnesota this week, and will be available at clinics and other vaccination sites.
Some pharmacies will participate, too, but will only give shots to older children in this age group. Already, some pharmacies like Walgreens have posted shot appointments for 3-to-5 year olds later this week.
Most vaccines will be given to children through health care providers. Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Mayo Clinic, said her institution aims to start vaccinating infants, toddlers and preschoolers the first week in July.
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What’s unusual about this moment in the campaign to get people vaccinated against COVID-19 is that there are two vaccines available for this age group at the same time. The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose course, while the Pfizer vaccine is a three-dose course with the third dose given two months after the second shot.
Both are smaller individual doses than adults and older children; Pfizer’s is three 3-microgram doses, while Moderna’s is two 25-microgram doses.
But she said parents should have their children get the vaccine that is available to them in their community.
“What they're going to be most effective at is keeping kids out of hospital and keeping kids from dying from COVID-19, which is really the most important thing that we want to prevent,” said Rajapakse.
Recent studies suggest that more than half the population has been infected with COVID-19 following this most recent wave of the Omicron variant, including a large swath of children under 11 years old.
While very recent infections provide some immunity to children in this age group, Rajapakse said the strongest protection comes from so-called hybrid immunity — a combination of having had the virus and having been immunized against it.
“We know that you develop a more robust, broader immunity to COVID virus than if you just had one of those things,” she said. “So if your child has already had COVID, it's still a reason to get them vaccinated.”
Rajapakse noted that children newly infected with the virus are eligible for COVID-19 shots about 10 days after symptoms started.Vaccine Finder